Far Cry Instincts E3 2005 Preshow Hands-On Impressions

We take a look at this upcoming Xbox shooter's story, multiplayer, and editing components, which will be shown at E3.

Ubisoft will be showing off its upcoming Xbox shooter, Far Cry Instincts, at E3 2005. Though the shooter bears the same name as the acclaimed 2004 PC game, lead designer Jean-Francois Dugas explained that some of the game's environments may resemble some areas from the previous game, but all of the content will be brand-new. The single-player game will be a retelling of the single-player game from the PC version--you play as Jack Carver, a retired soldier whose reporter friend Valerie has disappeared after your boat has been blown up (and you yourself have been left for dead). The single-player game will include both stealth and action elements as Carver makes his way across a tropical island crawling with enemy soldiers. The developer says that while the core storyline will be the same as the PC version, Instincts will further flesh out some of its characters and will contain a few small twists to keep things interesting for returning players.

You've never battled in such a lush and tropical environment. Too bad there's no time to work on that tan.

The game will let you simultaneously carry up to three firearms (a pistol, a medium weapon such as an assault rifle or submachine gun, and a "special" weapon, such as a sniper rifle or rocket launcher), and it will also let you make silent kills by attacking enemies from behind with a knife. In fact, Instincts will give you a number of abilities that weren't included in the PC version, most of which will allow you to take out enemies without raising any alarms. You'll be able to throw rocks to attract an enemy's attention and then sneak up behind them, for instance, or set up a tree-branch whip trap that triggers when an enemy crosses its tripwire, sending them flying.

Later on in the game, Carver will be injected with some kind of experimental serum that gives him superhuman sensory abilities, which will include a special type of vision, the ability to detect the scents of enemies (which are represented by visible clouds hanging in the air), and the ability to perform a lunging "predator attack." Eventually you'll even get an ability being referred to as force, which will give you massive strength that will let you pick up and carry stationary weapons like a mounted machine gun as if they were handheld weapons. However, the new game will share at least a few things with the original PC version, such as the "sandbox" layout of its levels, which let you approach groups of enemies using stealth, a frontal assault, or the game's drivable vehicles. Variants on all of the PC game's vehicles will be in the Xbox game, though the Xbox game will actually let you aim, shoot, and fight while driving a vehicle, which you'll need to be able to do if an opposing player jumps into the passenger seat in multiplayer.

Far Cry Instincts will feature five different competitive multiplayer modes that will work with a four-player split-screen setup or with 16 players on Xbox Live. These will include chaos (a free-for-all deathmatch), team chaos (team deathmatch), and steal the sample, essentially a capture-the-flag mode in which your team must recover a lab sample--however, you'll be able to fire your weapon while carrying the sample, and you'll also be able to pass the sample off to a teammate if you're under heavy fire. The game will also feature a seek-and-secure mode in which a helicopter will drop supplies onto a map, and the first team to get to the item will be required to defend the supplies from the opposing team. Finally, the game will offer a predator multiplayer mode, in which one player will play as a superhuman predators, whose low-light vision and lethal bare-handed attacks will make him or her extremely dangerous in dark areas of the map. Meanwhile, all the other players will attempt to take down the predator, who won't be visible on your radar but will cause your controller to shake when he or she is close by.

We had a chance to try out some free-for-all chaos gameplay, which seems to be fast-paced and intuitive for a console shooter. The Halo-like control scheme uses the two analog sticks to move and shoot, and you can jump, crouch, zoom in using your current weapon, and throw grenades without having to swap weapons. The map we played on was a waterlogged jungle temple surrounded at the top level by dense foliage, similar to something you might have seen in the PC version of Far Cry. This particular level was fairly snug but had a generous weapon, health, and armor layout and seemed to promote continuous movement rather than hiding in one spot.

We also got a look at Far Cry Instincts' map editor. Developer Ubisoft Montreal has apparently decided to make the editor resemble the powerful Far Cry PC editor as much as possible. Specifically, the editor will let you paint different kinds of terrain with a paintbrush, lower and raise terrain, choose different environments and times of day, drop in items and vehicles, and even jump into the maps from a first-person view instantaneously to see how a map is working out. Like the editor in Digital Extremes' Pariah, Far Cry Instincts' editor will have a meter at the bottom-right corner of the screen that fills up as you add more objects (trees, bases, vehicles, and so on). This meter will limit the amount of geometry you can place in a map to keep it running at a smooth frame rate. The developer hopes to keep most maps at about 500KB in size, so they should be easy to trade with your friends or pick up online.

Get ready to unload a whole lot of ammo.

From what we saw, Instincts' editor will be extremely user-friendly. You'll be able to start off with one of a number of templates that will provide a base to build a map on, or you can start with a clean slate and control everything from the map's topography to the time of day. The editor will even notify you when you've met the requirements for a given game type, such as team chaos or predator. Once you're done, you'll be able to send out new maps by hosting a game with them; any new players that join in should automatically download your custom maps to their hard drive. Ubi is considering different methods of hosting the best maps on its own site after the game has been on the market for a few weeks, so aspiring mappers can look forward to their work being put on display for everyone to play.

Far Cry Instincts looks very solid, and its powerful editor and fast-paced multiplayer bode well for fans of online console shooters. The game is scheduled for release in September.

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